Title: Swan Lake
Archived at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=rngrdead
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Xander has PTSD after rescuing one too many slayers. Spike is recovering (sort of) after the battle with W&H. Fate may have it they eventually find each other - she's funny that way.
Spoilers: Sometime in early season five – or possibly late six BtVS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Disclaimer: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
The young man halted in his flight “My grandmother spoke so fondly of you. When Mr Giles placed an order and said it was for you! Well, we could hardly believe it! It is truly an honor sir!” Spike must have looked a little stunned, but was happy to have placed Xander behind him. Particularly when the individual’s eyes changed to reveal the vertical slits of a reptile and his form shimmered once into his true form (that of a rather strange looking chameleon on two legs, sans tail) and back again to human.
Spotting Xander behind the vampire, Sahil slid gracefully to his knees in front of the Master vampire, “I am profusely sorry Master Spike. I did not know you were with companion. If it please you, how might I address him?”
Shaking off his shock at being treated with such deference, Spike replied rather formally, “This is Alexander Harris, ex-Watcher, fighter for good, former fiancé of the sadly departed Anyanka and original Scoobie of Sunnydale. Gave me care and lodgings when I needed it most, and fought by my side.” Spike tugged at Xander’s sleeve pulling him to stand at his shoulder.
Sahil bowed his head as the Scoobie came into full view, “Welcome Alexander Harris…” then raised his chin to look at Spike with concern. “Master, your companion is bleeding! What fiend dared touch what is yours in our neighborhood?”
Spike was tempted to create some grand story for Xander’s benefit, but thought better of it. “Boy here just had a bit of an altercation with a lamp post and the ground is all, not used to the terrain n’ cobbled culverts can be a right bitch in the dark. Listen Sahil, as I’ll be by more often than not for the few weeks, we’ll keep this visit short alright? Just want to pick up my order and some bits and bobs, and booze, and we’ll be on our way.”
“Of course, Master William. If you would like to help yourself, Mr Giles has left instructions that all purchases be put on his account. I will just fetch your order from the back.” Sahil made an effort to knee-shuffle backwards before standing and hurrying to a small door at the rear of the shop, ducking inside shouting back, “Back momentarily, Master Spike.”
Spike turned to Xander as soon as Sahil was out of sight, shrugged and handed Xander a hand basket from near the counter. “C’mon, you heard the man. Watcher’s payin’ so pick yourself up what you need food-wise and I’ll sort the drinks. Not havin’ you go wastin’ away on my watch… And pick up some dressings and painkillers if they’ve got ‘em here, should find the basics at least.”
In the end they were rather loaded up – both carrying bulging shopping bags in each hand. Spike thanked the young demon, agreeing to arrange to meet the boy’s grandmother ‘anon’, then ushered Xander toward the door saying “Off we go mate, let’s get this lot home and you seen to.”
Sahil was on his mobile phone within moments of the two leaving. He updated his Facebook page, gushing enthusiastically that Master William the Bloody and his Mate (for that is what he heard the vampire call Alexander as they were leaving) were in town and had shopped at his establishment. He also promised to provide photographic proof the very next time they paid a visit.
Unbeknownst to Spike and Xander, the news that the Aurelian Master William was back in London and had taken a human Mate, spread like wildfire.
Xander and Spike entered the darkened flat in comfortable silence. Down lights and lamps were switched on and food put away in quick order, before Xander was quietly instructed to have a shower. “You’re a right mess, pet. Get yourself washed off and I’ll come up to give you a hand with your injuries in a tick. Just give us a yell when you’re ready, and toss the T-shirt, yeah? Unless it’s got some sentimental value, I reckon we can find a replacement or two tomorrow. You need to borrow one of mine?”
Xander looked up at the last sentence, “What? No, no it’s OK… I… I’ve got a couple of extras.”
“Right, well you go do and I’ll fix us some supper in the meantime and see if there’s anythin’ worth a look on the box.” And when Xander didn’t move for another few seconds, Spike shooed him upstairs with a “Come on then… hop to!”
As instructed, Xander’s bloodied T-shirt was tossed toward the bin, and he noted his jeans would need a cold wash as he stripped before diving into the warm spray. He luxuriated under the faucet of the ultra modern shower, adjusting the water pressure and temperature when it came to his injured face. It really did hurt and he had yet to examine the damage in the mirror.
He had barely toweled off and was still tugging on fresh clothing when there was a soft tap on the door. “You alright in there Harris?”
“Yeah, just…” He pulled the sweat pants over his hips and tugged the door open to be greeted by a concerned looking blonde bearing dressings, scissors and the bottle of disinfectant they had purchased from the off license.
“Thought you might have drowned or sommat… Took your time of it.” The grumbled protest was without malice as Spike took in the damp mop of brown hair and smell of freshly washed human. The boy was still bare chested and though a mite too slim in Spike’s opinion, there was still a hint of a tan earned in the harshness of Africa and rejuvenated by a day in the sun on the patio. The vampire resisted the sudden urge to voice his admiration, instead pointed to the closed toilet and added, “Take a seat and let me take a look at the damage.”
Xander sat passively as Spike’s cool smooth hands gentled away the hair that flopped over his missing eye, inspected the grazed and bruised cheek and cut on his forehead on that side, gingerly dabbed disinfectant on the injuries, and added a dressing to the worst of the damage. Learned, feather light fingers mapped the edges of the eye socket and cheekbone, then the bridge of his nose was similarly touched before Spike seemed satisfied and straightened up. “Doesn’t look like anythin’s broken bone-wise. Reckon you’ll still have a decent shiner on that side though. Might be an idea leave the patch off for a few days… prob’ly best put a bigger dressing over it when we go out ‘n about.”
Xander looked a little surprised at the last statement, “So… you’re OK if we go out again? I just thought…”
“Thought what? Just ‘cause you decide to inspect the pavement up close n’ personal, don’t mean we’re gonna sit around cooped up here for the duration. Bloody well seen you bounce off more ‘n one lamp post before haven’t I, just need to give a bloke some warnin’ in future afore you decide on an impromptu cuddle on the cobbles.” Xander looked up to see a hint of mirth in the sparkling depths of Spike’s blue eyes and grinned then wished he hadn’t, “Owww! Jeez Spike, no fair to make me laugh! Geez.”
Spike looked unrepentant, in truth a little more than relieved at the outburst. “Alright then.” He held out his hand and pulled Xander to his feet. The man wincing a little at the action, “You hurt anywhere else?”
“Just a bruised hip, and my elbow a bit, I guess.” The brunette rubbing his tender arm then jumping a little as Spike moved forward apparently aiming for the waistband of his pants. “You want I take a look?”
Xander grabbed the elastic proprietarily and yelped, “Ach! No Spike. No looking at the… I haven’t even got any boxers on!”
Spike wiggled an eyebrow, but pulled his hand back with a chuckle, “That right? Well can’t have me comprimisin’ your dignity then can we. Come on. Beer’s gettin’ warm an’ supper’s waitin’.”
That settled, the two headed for the lounge room where, as promised, a modest repast was on the occasional table in front of the television.
Around midnight Xander yawned followed by a slightly pained “ouch”, and took himself to bed, leaving Spike to reflect on the day and give thought to his plans for the immediate future. Minutes later he picked up the detritus from the evening, dropped empty bottles in the garbage and plates in the sink, and heated another bag of blood. Drinking it without bothering to put it into a cup, he squashed the empty plastic into the bin, then turned off the lights and wandered upstairs out to the balcony for a quiet smoke where he continued to contemplate the day’s events.
A few things were obvious. Harris was still in a rather fragile state, his own near healed bruises from the sun drenched tackle early on and the collision with the lamppost later in the evening were evidence of that, but there had definitely been glimpses of the good natured Scoobie of old since their arrival in London. There was definitely room for improvement but it did augur well for a meaningful recovery.
There were a few things notable about the day that could certainly be considered positive. Their quiet, heartfelt afternoon sharing of their immediate histories had been relaxing; Xander’s unbidden yet obvious arousal when they were about to depart for their walk; Xander’s enthusiasm for window shopping and obvious enjoyment of dinner at the café (kilo of chocolate for ‘after’ notwithstanding); and the comfortable obviously relaxed evening in front of the television after their day. Yes, there was definitely hope for the boy’s state of mind, and some for the rather lovely body of his. Well, a vampire could dream, at least a little.
Spike smiled ruefully as he reflected. He had nearly always been one to ‘bounce back’ when life, or in his case, unlife served up the quintessential ‘curve ball’, but also recognized that some things were hard to get past: his sheltered life before becoming a vampire; his dear mother’s death at his own hand; Angelus’ cruelty and love then Angelus’ sudden disappearance; his devotion to Dru – the good times and bad; the torture of the chip and enforced change; the soul and all the pain of his past sins that engendered; the First, burning up and his time as ghost; then Fred’s demise and loss of the others that night; his very real grief at the loss of Angel; and his rescue by Connor, his vampire half brother. All of it informed his actions now, the determination to help the man now sleeping under the same roof. A young human who had hated and taunted, then tolerated and helped, then downright befriended him before the fiery end of Sunnydale.
His own survival through adversity, he had to admit, was miraculous to say the least, not just to be dismissed as some stroke of fate or natural instinct. Spike knew at his core it was some innate ability to adapt, to accept his fate (albeit sometimes dragged kicking and screaming to that point) and to move on.
He blew the cigarette smoke skyward and stared at the one twinkling star visible, its stalwart refusal to be masked by city lights or smog or the cloud rolling by. The poet, that was William, reflecting on the aptness of the natural metaphor. He needed to coax the inner energy, the light, that same determination to embrace life, out from under the cloud of dark memories that served to blacken Xander’s spirit - a spirit that was still there, battered but not broken, his life worthy of a good future and happiness.
Stubbing his cigarette out, he turned toward the door and let himself back inside, mentally listed off his original reasons for returning to his birthplace after so many years, pre learning of Xander’s predicament. He noted that his personal tasks could all be addressed with the man tagging along, indeed it was likely to be much more interesting with a companion in tow. Granted he was taking on a wounded ‘demon magnet’ with a short and checkered history, and they had hardly been best mates but he felt he owed the boy at least a few good new memories and who better to make them with…
He forewent a long soak in the oversized bath in favor of a scrub down in the hot shower then tumbled into bed, asleep in seconds. Literally, dead to the world.
The next day Spike woke around midday to find Xander lounging in the sun just as he was the previous morning. This time however, he was greeted with a casual “Hi Spike, sleep well?” and a smile, rather than the panicked tackle and drama of twenty-four hours earlier.
After exchanging pleasantries, Spike excused himself and went down to fix himself a liquid breakfast. He was rather surprised to find Xander had followed him, and was sitting on the bottom stair with a look of eager anticipation as he turned from emptying then washing his mug. “What?”
“Oh, nothing. Well, kind of something…”
“Look if you’re wondering about the blood, I’ve already told you, Giles wouldn’t supply anything if it wasn’t donated all legit like.”
“No, it’s nothing like that. I just kind of wondered…” Spike looked hard at the boy. He certainly had an obvious cut on his lip, decent bruise on his cheek and black coloring surrounding the gauze under his rather loose eye patch, and there was a decent patch of purple on his exposed shoulder on that side, but other than that he seemed fine. In fact under Spike’s scrutiny he smiled just a little, then turned a pretty shade of pink as though rather bashful and hiding something.
“All right I’ll take the bait. You were wonderin’ what?”
The brunette looked first at his hands and then at Spike again, and took a deep breath, “I was wondering if you would take me sightseeing, you know while things are all open ‘cause I really haven’t been in and around London, and I downloaded and printed a whole bunch of walks from the London for free website that we could choose from. And I figured that all the good stuff you probably know, and I don’t mind if we go wherever you want because you obviously know London, well at least up until you were here last but it can’t be that different. And some stuff will cost a bit but we can you know just look from the outside at least. And since it’s a nice day and now that you can walk in the sun, I just thought…” Finally he had to pause to take a breath, so Spike jumped in.
“Good well that’s settled. Seems like a plan – you going to get some strides on, or are you goin’ in the bathing suit?”
Xander was still trying to think of the next batch of convincing arguments when he belatedly realized that Spike had said yes. “Oh… Great! I’ll just um…” He pointed toward his bedroom.
Spike chuckled, “Yeah mate, you do that. See you back down here in ten.”
The following five hours were spent following a map of ‘the Royal Walk’ that took in everything from Buckingham Palace (their first stop) to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey with a side trip or two at Spike’s insistence, including a stop at an intimate old pub for a very late lunch. Xander took all the requisite tourist photos on his phone camera with Spike flat refusing to pose with a palace guard, and was scowling in at least three of the other few pictures Xander managed to catch him in.
They bought some rather good Chinese takeout close to home and finished the night without incident.
The next day Xander convinced Spike to join him on a double decker bus tour, though Spike drew the line at paying for twenty four hour tickets, and as they dragged their tired selves back home around 10pm that night, Xander had to agree it would have been a waste. But the brunette was genuinely enjoying himself it seemed, Spike being the recipient of increasingly more frequent open smiles and relaxed banter. There remained a noticeable tentativeness in Xander’s actions. He was constantly vigilant regarding Spike’s whereabouts, unwilling to venture out of sight for more than a few moments. But it was early days.
Their only hiccup on their bus trip day occurred when they wandered by the off-license to pick up Spike’s ‘red stuff’ en route home. Sahil waved to them and indicated that he would deal with the only other customer in the mini mart first. That done, he repeated the kneeling behavior of the first time they met, then prostrated himself fully as he begged to take a photo of the three of them together. A very embarrassed Xander convinced an extremely annoyed Spike that it was probably going to be quicker to simply do the photo than argue the point. With Sahil on the ground, Spike wasn’t going to get his blood anyway, so finally agreed to one in game face.
Xander almost fell over when Sahil’s glamor dropped and the human reverted to his half reptilian form, encouraging Spike to display his game face as they crowded in to a close up, Xander held firmly against Spike separating him from Sahil. The demon then took a second shot of just Spike and Xander, this time in all-human guise and with Spike’s arm around Xander’s waist pulling him close at Sahil’s insistence.
Thanks to a small group of customers entering the shop, the photo shoot was cut short, Spike’s package collected and hasty exit made.
Late on their fourth morning in London, Spike was woken by a loud knocking on the door to downstairs followed by Xander’s hurried footsteps on the landing and down the stairs. He rose quicker than he would have liked, pulled on his black jeans from the night before and followed as swiftly as he could, worried that there was some problem or possible threat. Instead he was greeted by a rather astonished, shirtless Xander almost hidden by an enormous flower arrangement in an equally proportioned colored glass vase, attempting to close the door with one elbow.
“What’s all this then? Got an admirer you’ve forgotten to mention mate?”
“What? No? I dunno. But the guy said it was the right address.”
“Well put it down somewhere. It’s bound to have a card. Probably Red wishin’ you a happy holiday or some such.”
Xander moved to the sideboard in the lounge and carefully placed the massive bouquet in front of a piece of sand colored, non-descript abstract sculpture. There must have been at least fifty long stemmed deep red roses, as many again in chrysanthemums, twisted thin black pieces of a vine of some description and what looked like blackened rushes poking out, all artistically arranged against a backdrop of huge fanned palm leaves. The vase itself was heavy black blown glass adorned with thick red what looked like drips running down, obviously added whilst the piece was still hot. In all the effect was quite magnificent, reached half way up the wall and certainly a striking addition to the otherwise rather neutral décor.
They both stood back for a moment and admired before Xander voiced the question for both of them. “Geez, I really don’t think Willow would have done this, do you?”
“No tellin’ with that one. Just so long as it doesn’t go poof and turn into sommit nasty is my thinkin’. The card’s stuck to the side there.”
Xander reached under the lowest blooms and tugged the little envelope free, handing it to Spike. “Be a pal an’ read it for us pet. Left my glasses upstairs.” Xander looked quizzically at Spike, but chose not to question the comment.
He tugged the elegant gilt edged card free, noting the fine penmanship as he read, “ ‘To Master William and Consort Alexander, Welcome back to London, With Congratulations and Deepest Affection Always, Lady Regina and Family.’ What the hell, Spike? Who’s Lady Regina and how does she know me?!”
“Well how ’m I s’posed to know you git?! Only one I know as goes by that name was… S@#t
… That little loose-tongued half-breed from the shop must’ve… I’ll tear ‘im a new one!” Spike was in game face and growling, eyes flashing gold as he flew upstairs intent upon dressing as fast as possible then carrying out his threat. Xander raced up behind him and blocked the bedroom doorway.
“Spike… *Spike*!!! Calm down! You can’t just assume that it was Sah-whatever-his-name-is! It could have been Giles or Andrew or even Willow or, I don’t know… Just stop for a minute will you! Stop and talk to me! *Spike*!” Xander threw caution to the wind and grabbed the vampire’s shoulders shoving him backwards with all his might. Spike’s knees collided with the bed and he sat with a thump, one boot only half on. Surprised human features instantly replaced ridges and fangs, “Have a care Harris, nearly had me arse over teakettle!”
Xander stood in front of him hands on his hips and stared down. “Well? You were going to do something stupid, violent, weren’t you! Just talk to me and maybe we can work this out. We’ll ring Giles and see who else he’s told, and I can check my emails and things – maybe you can too, and you know, figure out who might know you are here – apart from that guy in the mini mart. I mean, he called you Spike, OK Master Spike, but definitely Spike, not William, so it must be someone else, or someone who knew you from before you… you know.”
Xander sat on the bed next to Spike who was frowning and looking increasingly worried. He waited for a long minute in silence, until Spike finally sighed, shrugged and stood, “Well no time like the present. Let’s do a ring around, or email or whatever. But I still reserve the right to snot that little bugger Sahil if I find out he’s been spilling his beans to the wrong sort.”
As they walked downstairs shoulder-to-shoulder Xander started to think aloud “You really don’t think he’s evil or something. Come on Spike, he did kind of throw himself at your feet last night, seemed more like Andrew than Angelus. I’m sure that even if he did tell someone it wasn’t to hurt you. And he didn’t even know me, just Giles, so maybe ‘snotting’ might be a bit extreme.”